Planet Dylan


“There’s so many sides to Bob Dylan, he’s round,” recalls one of the singer-songwriter’s old Woodstock buddies, quoted in just about every book ever written on Dylan. Like a planet, then, with its own rarefied atmosphere and a gravitational pull that has brought more than one hopeful author crashing to the ground. How to write about Dylan? To engage with him as a fan is to risk high-temperature sycophancy and subsequent ridicule; but to approach him as a scholar is fraught with even greater dangers. Since his earliest days, Dylan has indulged in the art of playful deceit. He made up stories, lied to his loved ones and treated his casual interlocutors with even more contempt than his colleague-in-mischief, John Lennon. Here is a typical exchange, from Robert Shelton’s early account of a 1965 press conference, freshly re-edited in time for Dylan’s 70th birthday on Tuesday: “Q: Who are your favourite performers, I don’t mean folk, I mean general?” “A: Rasputin. Charles de Gaulle. The Staple Singers.” It is a reply that owes more to Dadaist disdain than the tinny tropes of showbusiness.

more from Peter Aspden at the FT here.